Event Logistics & Material Handling Guide

The Shepard Guide to Event Logistics and Material Handling 

As one of the nation’s leading event production companies, Shepard handles a lot of freight. Our larger tradeshows can involve the coordination of over 5 million pounds of materials, with many events ranging from 1 to 2 million pounds. For success at this scale, leaning on an experienced team to oversee the complex logistics of receiving, delivering, and loading out massive volumes of exhibit materials, heavy machinery, and equipment is absolutely critical.

In this guide, we share insights gleaned from decades of hard-won experience to help you streamline your event logistics. Whether your event is relatively modest or among the biggest annual tradeshows, understanding the shipping and material handling process allows you to budget with confidence, avoid preventable hiccups, and ultimately provide an exceptional experience for your exhibitors and attendees. 

We’ll start with an overview of the entire process, and then take a deeper dive into more advanced topics. 

Inbound Shipping, Material Handling, and Outbound Shipping 

The event logistics process has three major phases. Phase 1 is Inbound Shipping – getting all your freight to the venue on time. For those bigger shipments especially, you’ll want to plan this out well in advance. The earlier you can ship via consolidated transportation, the better rate you’ll likely get by maximizing use of truck space, fuel, and driver costs. Larger, more complex shows may have precise, “targeted” move-in times.  

Pro tip: Your official service provider or general contractor will most likely have a preferred carrier that can streamline coordinating all these phases in the most cost-effective manner. 

Once your shipments arrive at the venue’s receiving docks, Phase 2 begins – Material Handling. This involves unloading everything from the trucks, storing empty crates, delivering booth materials to your space on the show floor, and eventually reloading it all after the event wraps. 

Finally, Phase 3 is Outbound Shipping – bringing all that freight back home, or to the next venue location once the event is done. Properly planning each of these phases, from inbound transportation to material moving to outbound logistics, is crucial for a smooth, stress-free experience.  

Your Top Logistics Questions, Answered 

Shipping and Material Handling featured

Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s look at some of the most frequently asked questions from first-time exhibitors. (Plus, we’ll shamelessly plug our all-inclusive material handling rate, which makes budgeting your event more straightforward by eliminating unexpected costs.) 

What is a targeted show? 

A targeted show describes the systematic coordination of freight delivery based on booth size and location. Exhibitors are given target times, or windows in which they are scheduled to ship materials to (and sometimes from) the event site. This keeps everything organized. The best way to meet your target window is to ship your freight to your general service contractor’s Advance Warehouse before the show. 

When should I ship directly to the show?  

If you are shipping large, uncrated machinery or equipment (typically over 5,000 lbs.), you must ship it directly to the show site. These are called direct-to-show shipments. Check with your GSC for more details. 

What is a marshaling yard and why is it used? 

Some venues use marshaling yards to stage trucks in an ordered sequence before allowing them to proceed to the loading docks at the venue. This avoids congestion at the dock. You do not need to be present at the marshaling yard to receive shipments. 

Can I choose different providers for inbound and outbound shipping? 

Yes, you can choose different shipping providers for inbound and outbound transportation, though using the same provider often saves money and streamlines the process.

Shepard offers a convenient, combined solution to ensure your freight is in reliable hands throughout the entire shipping cycle.  Our integrated approach provides peace of mind and potential cost savings while avoiding coordination headaches. Visit Shepard Logistcs to learn more. 

Can I ship from one trade show to another?

Yes, official providers may offer caravan or expedited shipping services to transport freight directly from one show to the next venue. If your next event is with a different GSC, they may still be able to assist you in choosing a company. 

For more answers to your logistics questions, please consult our Knowledge Base

How Shepard’s All-Inclusive Material Handling Rate Simplifies Your Budget 

Material Handling

Budgeting for material handling used to involve weighing shipments and then receiving final bills with extra fees tacked on for minimums, special handling, marshaling yards and more. Shepard simplifies this with one straightforward per-pound rate that has no hidden fees. There’s no rounding up, no additional charges based on how your freight is packed or shipped. Our team handles all material management from truck to booth to reload. 

Our all-inclusive material handling rate eliminates minimums, overtime, and special handling fees, allowing you to plan your budget with total confidence. With transparent, simple pricing, you can focus on other aspects of executing a successful event. 

Simplify Your Trade Show Experience with Shepard Logistics 

When it comes to your company’s next trade show, don’t leave the critical logistics to chance. Let Shepard’s logistics experts ensure your next event runs smoothly from start to finish. Request a quote from Shepard Logistics to simplify your shipping and get everything in place for a successful event. 

Shepard is a full-service event production company. We design, develop and manage trade shows, corporate and other events throughout the U.S.